Tommy Carmichael is a master slot cheat, who has been
convicted twice in Las Vegas and once in Atlantic City on
accounts of slot cheating. He also admits to have cheated at
hundreds of other casinos before ever being caught.
Carmichael was the mastermind behind a cheating slot machine
group that managed to steal millions of dollars from casinos
worldwide. Carmichael produced a myriad of cheat tools including
the monkey paw and the light wand which enabled him to
successfully rig slot machines for nearly two decades.
World’s Biggest Slot Machine Scam
In 1980, Carmichael was working at a television repair shop
when his old friend, Ray Ming, showed him something that would
change his life forever. In his car trunk, Ming had a miniature
slot machine and a top-bottom joint: a rare but effective
cheating tool for that time period.
Carmichael was instantly hooked and spontaneously decided to
leave everything he knew behind and head to Las Vegas to try
this top-bottom joint out. He first tried it out on a five-cent
machine at a Las Vegas Strip casino, and managed to collect more
than $35 dollars worth of nickels. He spent the entire weekend
using this tool on various slot machines, feeling unstoppable,
and winning a significant amount of money.
Carmichael stopped at a nearby Denny’s for a mid-afternoon
coffee break when all of a sudden, several police officers
trampled through the restaurant in search of him. When they
search his pockets, they found the top-bottom joint, which he
claimed was a tool he used to start his car. Due to Carmichael’s
track record of drugs and misdemeanors, he was sentenced to five
years for this cheating scandal.
Behind bars, Carmichael met Mike Balsamo, who would help him
form a small group of expertise game cheats. They agreed to find
each other after they were done serving their time. Although
they were able to locate each other, there were many more
obstacles the pair would have to face in the months to come,
particularly advancements in slot machine technology that would
throw their old cheating methods out the window.
Released From Prison, Round Two
While Carmichael was in prison, Bally and International Game
Technology released a video poker slot machine that operated on
microprocessors and random number generators. It would now be
impossible to cheat using his old methods, so Carmichael had to
go back to the drawing board.
After he saved up enough money through working a couple part
time jobs, Carmichael returned to Las Vegas and bought a video
poker machine. He spent nearly half a year developing and
producing a device that would later be known as, The
This device, which was made out of spring steel and guitar
wire could be placed through the payout chute, tripping the
micro switch, and causing the bucket full of quarters to pay out
approximately a $1,000 an hour. Unfortunately for Carmichael,
slot machine technology kept improving and soon the monkey claw
wouldn’t be as effective either.
He went to the Las Vegas showroom, pretending to be a
customer that wanted inspected the inside of a machine in order
to see if he could still rig them. Carmichael bought one of the
machines and in a matter of days invented the tool know was The Light Wand. The light would shine
up the payout chute so brightly that the sensor would be blinded
and cause the machine to spill out the coins.
By about 1992, the device was successfully cheating slot
machines everywhere and Carmichael was soon making thousands by
selling it to other slot machine cheats in the industry.
Carmichael, himself, played almost every-day, spending most of
his time in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He didn’t limit himself
to the United States though. In 1995, Carmichael and Balsamo
took seven Caribbean cruises in the span of six months, earning
thousands a day from the casinos on board.
Balsamo later introduced Carmichael to Ramon David Pereira to
form a tight knit group of cheating professionals. They scouted
out several other cheats that had already been active in the
industry for years and it wasn’t long before they were making
millions of dollars on a daily basis.
Getting Caught and Convicted
In fall of 1996, Carmichael sat in front of a slot machine
inside the Circus Circus hotel-casino but little did he know
that surveillance cameras were focusing on his every move. As
soon as his cheating was confirmed, security guards were sent to
take him into custody.
He was later charged on accounts of possessing a cheating
device and manufacturing a cheating device. The charges were
later dropped, but less than a year later Carmichael was
arrested again in another part of Nevada for similar charges.
In 2000, Carmichael was federally convicted as principal
member of a nation-wide cheating operation. Carmichael was
sentenced to serve 326 days in jail, three years of probation,
and a court ordered ruling to stay out of all casinos until his
probation was over.
Turning Things Around
Carmichael now spends his time developing new gadgets in his
nearby workshop. One of them is called The Protector:
an anti-cheating device that Carmichael is hoping will right his
past mistakes. This device was design to withstand all known
cheating devices, but authorities are being very cautious.
“They cannot stand the thought of me righting a
wrong and possibly making a little money off it,” –Carmichael exclaims in an interview with USA Today.
The Nevada Gaming Commission debated whether Carmichael
should be listed in the state’s Black Book of people banned from
casinos. After long consideration and despite his efforts to
make things right, they believed it would be in their best
interest to do so.
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